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Estate planning: Avoiding family disputes following one's death

These days, the complexity of divorced and split families makes arguments over the assets in a deceased family member’s estate more likely. Estate disputes following one's death is an outcome that most estate planners will want to try to avoid at all costs. Indeed, one of the primary goals of good estate planning is to maintain the continuity and peace in one’s family so that spouses, children and grandchildren can stay on loving terms with one another. Fortunately, there are a few considerations that Houston residents can keep in mind while creating an estate plan in order to avoid disputes among their relatives after their deaths.

The chance of a dispute can be limited by speaking with one’s heirs during the estate planning process. By speaking with heirs, one can determine and manage their expectations, especially when it comes to personal property. Numerous and ugly court battles have been fought over seemingly insignificant knickknacks that happen to hold an enormous amount of sentimental value. By deciding who will get what personal property ahead of time, and letting them know, one can make sure that relatives are happy with one’s decisions to avoid disputes later on down the road.

Estate planners may also want to make sure that all estate planning documents are completely up-to-date and reflect any kind of major life change that might have happened in recent years. Indeed, after the death of a relative or after a divorce, one must review all beneficiary designations on 401(k)s, IRAs, insurance policies and pension accounts. This will avoid inadvertently leaving one’s entire IRA to an ex-wife who is still listed as a beneficiary, which would likely lead to inheritance disputes in court.

Finally, Houston residents may wish to contract a financial planner, legal professional or estate planning expert to help them put together their estate plan. Although this seems like the common sense thing to do, many people try to create their estate plan on their own and, therefore, could be missing out on the numerous benefits of a professionally compiled plan. Indeed, individuals who work professionally within the estate planning field know exactly what needs to be done and what questions should be asked in order to avoid common pitfalls and family arguing after one’s death.

Source: The Fiscal Times, "4 Wise Ways to Avoid a Family Feud Among Heirs", Sheryl Nance Nash, June 16, 2014

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